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The extermination of Canada's Innu people:

Canada's killing fields

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Quotation:

"What Survival reveals...has shocked and appalled me. It is clear that behind Canada's liberal reputation lies a scandal the government is desperate to hide. If Canadians knew what their government is doing to the Innu, they would be astonished and ashamed." Julie Christie, actress.

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Overview

Since early 1999, the United Nations has rated Canada as the "best" nation in the world to live. This rating is based on a wide variety of factors: citizens' average economic status, personal rights, life expectancy, infant mortality etc. But concentration on averages always obscures the extremes. Some Canadians have a very high quality of life; others suffer in poverty without decent education, a job, an adequate place to live, and without hope for the future.

Thhe main author of this web site volunteered for two intervals, each five years in duration, at a local distress center. (Distress centers are called crisis centers and suicide prevention centers, hot lines, etc. in the U.S. and elsewhere). During the training course that this author took in 1983, the instructors mentioned that Canada's Native population has the highest suicide rate of any identifiable group in the world. No easily accessible documentation of this fact has been seen...until now.

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The Innu:

The Innu consist of "a grouping of the Montagnais, Naskapi and Atikamekw aboriginal peoples of northeastern Quebec, and another group in Labrador in the province of Newfoundland." 5 In 1967, the Newfoundland government convinced the Mushuau Innu (the people of the barrens) to abandon their traditional location on the mainland of Labrador where they had been nomadic hunters of caribou for about six millennia. Unfortunately, nobody in the government appears to have taken into account that centuries of their "pride, traditions, and spirituality [were] tied to the land of their ancestors..." 6 They were resettled on the Davis Inlet where they were expected to establish a fishery. "...their social fabric soon fell apart." 6The provincial government reneged on its promises of fresh water and sewage systems. Suicide rates mounted.

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1993 TV news program:

A TV news broadcast in 1993-JAN made some Canadians aware of major social problems among the Innu. It showed six 12- to 14-year-old Innu children at Davis Inlet who:

"... attempted suicide by inhaling gasoline fumes from plastic bags. When discovered, the youths fought off attempts to be rescued and screamed that they wanted to die." 6

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1999 report:

Survival International is a worldwide organization that supports:

"... tribal peoples. It stands for their right to decide their own future and helps them protect their lives, lands and human rights." 1

On 1999-NOV-8, they issued a report 'Canada's Tibet – the killing of the Innu.' 2  Survival International reports that the Innu people in Canada's northeastern regions have the highest suicide rate in the world: 178 per 100,000 persons per year. This compares to an average suicide rate of 14 per 100,000 elsewhere in Canada, and 12 per 100,000 in the U.S.

The report states that:

"Utshimassits is a community living in almost unimaginable squalor and disarray. They described wooden shacks with no running water, poor roads and scant health care. These conditions are reflected in the appalling health and mortality statistics for Davis Inlet, where family breakdown, sexual abuse, drunkenness and alcohol-related disease, violence, accidents and self-harm become endemic.''

According to the Toronto Star newspaper, there are two main  causes: 

bullet Incompetent, paternal, racist government policies under the guise of benevolent progress, and
 
bullet The sexual and physical abuse of Innu children at the hands of a small minority of Roman Catholic priests over a period of generations. 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Survival International has a web page at: http://www.survivalinternational.org
  2. "Canada's Tibet - the killing of the Innu," Survival International, 1999-NOV-8, at: http://www.survivalinternational.org/material/51 
  3. Brian McAndrew, "Innu suicide rate highest in the world: British report blames Ottawa, Catholic Priests," The Toronto Star, newspaper, Toronto ON, 1999-NOV-8, Page A1 and A14. The article is no longer online.  
  4. M. Mittelstaedt & K. Haggart, "U.K. group calls treatment of Innu 'Canada's Tibet': suicide of native spokesman's son on the eve of launch in London of damning report highlights despair in aboriginal communities." The Globe and Mail newspaper, Toronto ON, 1999-NOV-8, Page A3. It is not available online.
  5. "Canadian native group tops suicide list," IOL news, 1999-NOV-08, at: http://www.iol.co.za/
  6. Marvin Martin, "Year in review 1993: world-affairs," Britannica.com at: http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/ The article is no longer online.

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Copyright 1999 to 2014, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-NOV-8
Latest update: 2014-DEC-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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